1st Chance For A Break. The Mountains have been entered and the big show has begun in earnest! Looking at this stage, one would predict it to be a day pencilled in by breakaway specialists such as Simon Gerrans, Thomas Voeckler or Thor Hushovd (had he have been racing) who have already let a good whack of time go from the race leader.
In this way they’re non-threatening when they do get in a break and thus aren’t chased down.
The last climb of the day finishes some 16km from the finish line, so any splintering of the big dogs on the way up would likely be neutralised on the way down the mountain, decreasing the likelihood of there being much action at the front of the field.
HOWEVER. (note it is a big however. Heh) After the Team SKY domination yesterday, there will be a number of riders (and their teams, directeurs, coaches, etc) wondering what happened to all of the work they’d done leading into this race. Some will be determined to atone for yesterday’s performance today, or in the forthcoming stages, while some will be mentally flat, and disengage from the race.
The fact that so many riders were effectively knocked out of the race yesterday (it is down to Wiggo, Cadel and Nibali) means more blokes will be looking to go on the attack today in breaks and whatnot. Thus the breakaway specialists may have the unwelcome company of one of the guns who had a bad day yesterday, meaning Sky will give them less leash, meaning the break may not stay away after all.
Couple that confounder with the fact that Nibali needs to find some time on Wiggo and Cadel somewhere, and he is a genuine gun descender, and we may see him give it a crack today.
It is going to be a tough stage regardless. Some of the climbs today have fantastically evocative names: Cote du Passage de la Douleur and Col de La Croix being my two favourites. Col de La Croix is ridiculously tough: 3.8km at an average grade of 9.2%. Good luck to anyone not on their game today!!
I am on… Ummm… Valverde to finally catch a break and not be involved in a crash or mechanical from Chavanel from Nibali. 1st Chance For A Break.
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